Initiative with vision: Austrian gas network operators GCA and TAG join the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB)

The two transmission system operators Gas Connect Austria and Trans Austria Gasleitung are working intensively on the implementation of regional and European climate targets and have recently joined the European Hydrogen Backbone initiative to develop a European hydrogen network. The basis for this is to be the already excellently developed gas networks in Europe. The EHB initiative today presented an update of its vision for a European hydrogen network.

  • Europe-wide closing of ranks: Gas Connect Austria (GCA) and Trans Austria Gasleitung (TAG) with 21 other European gas transmission system operators part of the EHB initiative
  • EHB Group presents a vision for a 39,700 km long hydrogen network in 21 countries
  • Two thirds of the network will be based on existing rededicated gas pipelines
  • Hydrogen to flow in Austria's gas pipelines in future

The group proposes a hydrogen network of almost 40,000 km by 2040, with further growth expected after 2040. This network will connect 21 European countries. The vision presented today follows the EHB report published in July 2020, which generated a lot of interest across Europe. The report at the time described a network of 23,000 km covering ten countries.

Two-thirds based on existing gas pipelines
About 69 % of the proposed hydrogen network is based on existing gas infrastructure. The remaining 31 % of new pipelines to be built will be needed to connect new consumers and are in countries with small gas networks today, but with high expected future hydrogen demand and supply. In Austria, the potential of the well-established gas routes and the Baumgarten gas hub of the two transmission system operators GCA and TAG will be used.

EHB initiative supports Austria's ambitious energy goals
With these plans, the EHB initiative also contributes to Austria's ambitious goals of being carbon neutral by 2040. As early as 2030, a first step towards a dedicated hydrogen grid could be achieved by blending and deblending into/from the existing gas grid connecting Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Germany. Producers and consumers of hydrogen would thus have the same flexibility and hub function available as now for natural gas.

By 2035, one of the parallel strings of the TAG pipeline could be converted to transport hydrogen in both directions (from north to south and vice versa). Furthermore, 3 interconnectors to Italy, Slovenia and Hungary could already be built, allowing hydrogen transport from North Africa and Ukraine to Slovenia, Hungary and via Slovakia and the Czech Republic to Germany. By 2040, an additional connection to Germany could be added by fully upgrading GCA's WAG pipeline. This would provide an alternative transport route for Ukrainian Hydrogen to Germany. Once completed, the Austrian network would be ready to act as an efficient and flexible hydrogen hub in the region. At all interconnection points it would be possible to transport hydrogen in both directions. In addition to transit, the GCA network could also provide cheaper Hydrogen to Austrian consumers, such as one of Europe's largest steel mills in Linz, which is already conducting trials on hydrogen-based steel production, and a large refinery near Vienna.

Lower investment costs than previously expected
The total investment costs of the backbone planned for 2040 with a total length of about 40,000 km are estimated at € 43 - 81 billion. The investment costs per line kilometers are lower compared to last year's EHB report. The reason for this is that previously only cost estimates for pipelines with a diameter of 48 inches were included, whereas the current report considers that a large part of today's natural gas infrastructure and the future hydrogen infrastructure consists of smaller pipelines. These are cheaper to repurpose but result in slightly higher transport costs per kilometers. Transporting hydrogen over 1,000 km would cost on average €0.11-0.21 per kg of hydrogen, making EHB a cost-effective option for hydrogen transport over long distances.

Stable regulatory framework needed
The hydrogen infrastructure maps for 2030, 2035 and 2040 published today reflect the vision of 23 European gas transmission system operators, based on their analysis of how infrastructure could evolve to meet decarbonization targets. It is important to emphasize that the hydrogen transport routes and timetables in the maps are not set in stone. The final backbone design and timeline will depend on market conditions for hydrogen as well as the establishment of a stable regulatory framework.
"For the energy transition to succeed efficiently and affordably, European cooperation is needed. The plans of the EHB initiative testify to the Europe-wide endeavor and present ways to transport climate-neutral energy cost-effectively with existing infrastructure in the future. Our gas infrastructure, which is an important hub of the European energy supply, can be optimally integrated into an integrated European Hydrogen network and can thus contribute significantly to achieving the climate targets," says Harald Stindl, Managing Director Gas Connect Austria.
Daniele Gamba, Managing Director TAG: "The existing gas infrastructure, through its retrofitting and repurposing, will provide a significant contribution in the future energy system in a reliable and affordable way. The EHB initiative shows that we have to be seen as part of the solution to achieve our common climate targets."

The report can be found here.

For further inquiries please contact:

Gas Connect Austria GmbH
Armin Teichert
Tel. +43 (1) 27500-88052

Trans Austria Gasleitung GmbH
Alexandra Vit-Sardelic
Tel: +43 (0)1 59 75 116-58092

Background information:

Gas Connect Austria GmbH is a natural gas transmission system and distribution system operator, based in Vienna. With 280 employees, Gas Connect Austria operates a modern and powerful high-pressure network centred on the Baumgarten hub, with connections to Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as to storage and production facilities. As a logistics services provider with a strong customer focus, the company is constantly developing its products and services in line with market requirements. Gas Connect Austria is intensively engaged with the issues of the energy transition at national and European level and is actively working on solutions for decarbonising the grids.

Trans Austria Gasleitung GmbH is a transmission system operator in Austria. Its pipeline system connects Baumgarten in Austria with Tarvisio in Italy over a distance of 380 km and has an annual transport capacity to Italy of 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The TAG pipeline network consists of around 1,140 km of high-pressure natural gas pipelines from the Slovakian-Austrian to the Austrian-Italian border. Along the route in Austria, the natural gas pipeline also supplies natural gas for consumption. TAG also transports natural gas to Slovenia via the SOL pipeline.